Though romance is important in many works, bonds of friendship between those of the same sex form some of fiction's most significant relationships. One common method of playing with these close relationships is to portray them similarly to romantic relationships, though the characters may feel nothing sexual for one another. For example, two male friends may bicker in an exaggerated manner
, mirroring how television normally depicts husbands and wives
, or one friend may voice jealousy of another with lines lovers normally use.
The juxtaposition is often Played for Laughs
, especially with male characters. Other such scenes may attempt fanservice
, particularly when the characters are the opposite gender of the intended demographic
. Rarer, the subtext is Played for Drama
, using common romance tropes to heighten the strength of the relationship, although whether this means the writer supports interpretations that the relationship is
romantic is usually left ambiguous.
In older media, when there were rules forbidding overt displays of homosexuality, writers who wanted to create gay characters would often resort to homosexual subtext.
See also Homoerotic Dream
This page covers only intentional examples
, chiefly those lampshaded
by characters, Word of God
, laughter or awkward pauses. It does not cover fans' delight at or tendency
to view any interactions as gay; for that, see Ho Yay
. It also does not cover any Ship Teases
or actual homoerotism
, where the characters may indeed be gay or bisexual
for each other.
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Anime & Manga
- Mahou Sensei Negima!:
- In Durarara!!, the way Izaya and Shizuo hate each other, the psychological games, constantly moving into each others' personal space, and their rather obsessive loathing - which is a very odd departure for Izaya who 'loves all humans' - tends to be where people stamp Belligerent Sexual Tension on their relationship. While the author is apparently annoyed to some extent by the people who ship it, he has apparently said 'Hell, why not' and put in some subtext in later volumes, and the producers/writers of the anime pushed this into the forefront right off the bat.
- As an extremely genre savvy shoujo manga, Ouran High School Host Club plays up the homoerotic subtext for both fanservice and laughs. After all, a decent amount of Yaoi Fangirls have to be reading it. It's even invoked in universe when the twins play it up during club activities.
- The last episode of Seitokai no Ichizon plays it for laughs where the protagonist is doing his best to avoid this as best he can and failing utterly until he finally manages to relax and give the other guy some advice. Curse you, Mafuyu!
- Axis Powers Hetalia might have some of this — being a comedy that also has a few canon gay couples, it's hard to tell sometimes what is Played for Laughs and what is actual Ship Tease.
- Sengoku Basara lives and breathes this trope. Helps that 90% of the cast are male.
- Persona 4: The Animation:
- Episode 12 seems to have a lot of this between Yu and Yosuke. Yosuke pulls Yu out of Mitsuo's Shadow's illusion, and they then look each other in the eye while in Jiraiya's arms. At the end of the episode, Yosuke calls Yu by his first name. Episode 19 has some tension during the group date. Yosuke says that he feels he was "about to cross a line that should never be crossed," and searches frantically for a drink.
- Episode 15 and the Love Hotel, Chie, Yukiko, and Rise in the rotating bed having giggle fits. Something similar happens when Teddie, Yosuke, and Kanji end up in a bed together, except in that case the only one laughing is Teddie.
- The Sakamichi No Apollon anime (also known as Kids on the Slope) is full of this, specifically between Sentarou and Kaoru. Even though the main characters eventually each have their own female Love Interests, they have an equal amount of Fanservice with each other.
- Episode 1, the scene when Kaoru first meets Sentarou is blatantly ripped-off from some shoujo manga, complete with the pink background and the line "So, you have come to take me". It is explained later in the manga that Sentarou thought that Kaoru was an angel who've come to take him away in his nap, not helped by how Kaoru has been known as having a 'pretty face' according to Ritsuko (which she corrected into 'handsome' right away).
- Sentarou and Kaoru constantly bickers in exaggerated manners, even though they actually get along pretty well, as stated by Ritsuko. Kaoru throws a fit when Sentarou agrees to play music with another man! (Rock and roll, no less. The horror!)
- There are many scenes in which Sentarou has no sense of space around Kaoru, including patting his head or shoulders, trying to share a jacket with him to shelter from rain, or pining him down to his bed in a serious manner, much to Kaoru's surprise. Kaoru once literally states that Sentarou is so good-looking, he sometimes takes his breath away.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion has only half an episode with Kaworu and Shinji and there's a lot of ways in which their interaction can be interpreted. That said, would-be shippers have a lot of material to go on from that mere half-episode - more material than NGE's hetero-pairings put together. Shinji's attraction to Kaworu and denial thereof is clear in the manga, and Kaworu's attraction is made very explicit, but left ambiguous in the anime. Rebuild of Evangelion meanwhile devotes half a movie to the same pairing, and two entire conversations are made to sound like they're talking about making love and not piano playing (which is what they were doing).
- Berserk: Griffith is one of the few Guts allow to touch him and Griffith is all sorts of jealous towards Guts. Oh and Naked Water Fight. It goes straight into horrifying territory with the Eclipse and the events that lead up to it.
- Bleach: To say Sui-Feng is attached to her mentor, Yoruichi Shihouin, would be putting it mildly. Though the anime tends to play this up more than the manga does. One Omake has her conspire with Kiyone to try to get nude photos of Yoruichi, while another has her imagine being rescued by her.
- Pet Shop of Horrors both plays this for laughs and uses it to add more power to some tear jerkers.
- While Fai and Kurogane in Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle almost pass into Yaoi Guys territory, the genre makes them into one huge Ship Tease because the mangaka love to hear fans scream in frustration.
- Lupin III: The Columbus Files:
- The beach scene with Jigen and Goemon. And yes, while the mouth-to-mouth is explained, why Goemon had to take most of his clothes off to do it is not.
- In the case of Rosaria and the amnesiac Fujiko; Rosaria jokingly asks Lupin if they can "share" Fujiko. Not that those two didn't have subtext before that.
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica is rife with this, to the point that some fans jokingly refer to the series as "Miserable Lesbians: The Anime". Literally every pair of the five main girls who get some significant interaction have subtext (and for those that don't interact they have spin-off material, like Mami/Kyoko in The Different Story), while Homura/Madoka is constantly taken to the bleeding edge of subtext and text. The staff are not only aware of this and toss out Ship Tease like candy, but also occasionally reveal that they ship it too.
- Bubblegum Crisis:
- Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha plays up the romantic symbolism of Nanoha and Fate's relationship for all it's worth, complete with The Dulcinea Effect and What Beautiful Eyes, and their final scene crams in nearly every Love Confession trope in the book. Later seasons drop the symbolism and makes it blatantly obvious they're married, including adopting a daughter together in StrikerS. However, despite Word of Gay from several staff members there's still some plausible deniability to keep them in the subtext category.
- In the Dark Fic Prison Island Break, Sonic and Shadow's husband-wife relationship is very deliberate, with Sonic in the husband role. Their interactions scream Slap-Slap-Kiss, except without the kissing, and Shadow quits complaining when Sonic calls him 'Girlfriend'. As well as the hilarious arguments, there are some very tender moments:
Sonic: Listen, Shadow-man, we're gonna get out of this place. I know it's possible. And you know what, Shadow? If you're right, and this plan doesn't work... I'm gonna keep trying more plans until we do. All of us.
Shadow: How do you do that?
Sonic: Well I just happen to be so awesome and-
Shadow: Not that, you idiot. The other thing. How do you stay so cheerful? Why don't you just kill yourself and get the pain out of the way? How can you face today, when it's so fucking awful? What do you do to bear it?
Sonic: Same thing you do, I guess... I look up at the sun every morning. And I race it to tomorrow...
Shadow: I thought I was the only one...
- Imperfect Metamorphosis, given that it lampshades everything in the Touhou fandom, inevitably has scores of this. Marisa constantly makes sex jokes regarding her friends, Alice is heavily implied to be crushing on her, Mima casually flirts with Reimu and Reisen, something develops between Rumia and Rin Satsuki, Mystia and Wriggle are Mistaken for Romance, Kaguya and Mokou have their usual Foe Yay, and Yuuka is all but outright stated to be a serial rapist who kept Wriggle as a "pet" for a while.
- Touhou Ibunshu has characters toss out "I love you"s with abandon, have no hesitation to get intimately close, with Remilia practically seducing Reimu, and have a tendency to end up naked with each other on a common basis. By the final arc the "subtext" part is dropped, with Kaguya and Eirin explicitly stated to have been married for centuries, and by the very end Marisa and Alice are also a couple.
Film — Live-Action
- Top Gun was rife with subtext. Years later, asked if his role in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was his first gay character, Val Kilmer joked that it was - but only if you don't count Top Gun.
- X-Men: First Class:
- According to co-screenwriters Ashley Miller and Zack Stentz in the "Second Genesis" featurette (which was included on the DVD/Blu-Ray release), this movie is essentially a love story between Charles and Erik, with Raven and Hank being the Beta Couple:
Miller: The story between Charles and Erik is on some level this tragic romance. You gotta arrange the other elements in that way, too.
Stentz: Yeah, in this case you have Hank and you have Raven who end up being kind of the B-story version of the same thing you're seeing playing out with Charles and Erik. It's the making and breaking of a relationship.
- In the rare "Magneto the Survivor" featurette, First Class producer Simon Kinberg refers to Professor X's and Magneto's separation as a divorce when he discusses their older counterparts.
"What I love between Ian [McKellen] and Patrick [Stewart] in X1, 2, 3 is the sense that they're disappointed in each other. They actually wish that the other one would just come back to them, come back to their side, you know, 'we could be so great together.' It really is a post-divorce story. Understanding the origin of their conflict was the thing that was most interesting to me in this film. Understanding the beginning of their political fissure and their emotional fissure."
- James McAvoy called the movie a "love story" between Xavier and Magneto, even though, pressed for clarification, he admitted they were not gay. The film certainly did concentrate heavily on the two's relationship, and the final scene, in which the two split and their surrogate children chose sides, played out like a couple's divorce.
McAvoy: It is a little bit of a mini-tragedy that [Xavier] and Magneto don't, you know, have sex and become married and become best friends.
- Gore Vidal claims to have inserted homoerotic subtext into the script of Ben Hur, treating two male characters as former lovers. The characters otherwise appear straight, and Charlton Heston later claimed complete ignorance of the subtext. (Heston's ignorance was a case of Enforced Method Acting. Vidal told Stephen Boyd privately to act as if his character was in love with Ben Hur.)
- I Love You Man tried to sell itself as "the first bromantic comedy." It covered the start and development of a male friendship much how other movies might a romance, and largely not as a parody.
- A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge is an odd case. After its release many people noted its strange homosexual subtext. Years later the scriptwriter revealed that he intentionally added these elements to the story, but the entire rest of the production crew, the director included, simply never noticed. Robert Englund has gone on record saying that he thinks that Freddy in this film represents Jesse's repressed homosexual desires. Mark Patton (who played Jesse) came out as openly homosexual after the film was released, and thinks that his self-doubts about his sexuality at the time when the movie was shot carried over into his performance.
- The Ruthless guide to '80s action movies straight-out acknowledges the "hidden gayness" of '80s action movies and elaborates on it in detail. Top scorers are, of course, Top Gun, Commando and Red Heat.
- Betty Buckley has said that, in the 1976 version of Carrie, she played the gym teacher Miss Collins as a lesbian in order to invoke this in her interactions with Carrie.
- Original drafts of Hot Fuzz had a love interest for Angel named Victoria. When the character was removed, much of her dialogue was given intact to Danny, leading to lots of subtext, which was then consciously played for laughs. When the writers and actors discovered Hot Fuzz Slash Fic, they were amused, and even started tweeting their own Hot Fuzz slash fanfiction.
Edgar Wright (via Twitter):
We wrote some Nicholas Angel and Danny Butterman slash fiction. It was called Hot Fuzz
You do realize this counts as canon
to us now?
- Between Ripley and Call in Alien: Resurrection, which Word of God says was intentional.
- There are some serious guy-love vibes in Pain and Gain.
- Along with tight action sequences, the homoerotic subtext is half the point of So Close
- Almost all of Kevin Smith's films in the The View Askewniverse especially revolve around two men and their very close friendships. Some of these films (like Chasing Amy between the protagonist and his male best friend) openly portray it as attraction, but most leave it as subtext. He acknowledged that he would put some of this content in his films as Fanservice directed at gay people.
- In Disgaea 4, Fenrich is possessive enough of Valvatorez that Fuka wonders if he's gay for the vampire in question. He never says he isn't. This only increases with the Tyrant Valvetorz Flashback DLC.
- Jin Kisaragi of BlazBlue has a disturbing fixation upon his older brother, Ragna the Bloodedge. On the one hand, Word of God has it that Jin is straight, in love with Tsubaki Yayoi and cannot conceive how his feelings for his brother could ever be interpreted by others as romantic in nature. On the other hand, the guys over at Arc System Works are also having WAAAYYY too much fun abusing Ragna's Butt Monkey status by upping the subtext to nigh-canonical levels.
- In Grand Theft Auto V, Michael and Trevor's relationship borders on this. Throw in Rule of Funny and you get gems like:
Michael: So you're taking me on a date, and you forgot your car, T?
- Leon Powalski from Star Fox has a dialog with Panther when Wolf performs a secret taunt in the Lylat Cruise stage in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. This gives a rather interesting view to the character.
Panther: A skirmish... Just the place for a bunch of space drifters like ourselves.
Leon: Star Wolf is really giving it his all otu there. I'm more than a bit envious of him. Those razor-sharp claws. Those keen fangs. He moves wildly and fights with the spirit of a warrior possessed! Any prey he sets his eye on is doomed to be shredded to pieces!
Panther: Umm... Leon? Are you feeling all right?
Leon: Yes, of course! Fine! Just fine. Haa ha haaaaa ha haaahaaa...
Panther: Set me straight here Leon. Are you envious of the shred-DER or the shred-DEE?
- Metal Gear has so much of this that it might as well be Hideo Kojima's Signature Style, filled with buff men waxing soulful at each other before a session of manly grappling, shirts optional. The kings are Snake and Otacon in every game set after Metal Gear Solid ("Do you think love can bloom on the battlefield?"), with Guns of the Patriots having them raise a daughter together.
- Although Mass Effect has several canon same-gender romance options, Shepard can get extremely close to most of the characters s/he can romance (and a few s/he can't) regardless of gender, their interactions playing out much the same way even if an explicit romance isn't an option. Some of this has to do with cut content; Ashley and Kaiden were originally planned to be romance options regardless of Shepard's gender in Mass Effect 1, and a romance route for Tali and FemShep was scrapped for Mass Effect 2, the lingering effects of which can still be seen (Kaiden at least became a romance option for MaleShep as well as FemShep for Mass Effect 3).
- Ja Wangnan and Nya Nia from Tower of God. Ja keeps commenting on how feminine Nia looks, has quite a few scenes with him, they share a roomnote and Nia's number is saved under "My Beloved Nia~♥♥". Subtle. Ja Wangnan does not take his death well, which in a society where you can die at any time and already seen countless deaths, means quite abit.
- Fans interpretation of Charizard and Clefable's relationship in 151 Hidden Depths.
- Black and White from Grey is..., their relationship has a lot of this. They bicker like a married couple and have no problem showing affection for each other.
- Vinnie and Rabbit from Skins. They bicker constantly and argue Like an Old Married Couple.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, the subtext and Ship Tease between Aang/Zuko, Sokka/Zuko, Katara/Toph, Roku/Sozin, and Azula/Ty Lee, among other couples, is completely deliberate on the part of the writers, between Word of God and in-show Lampshade Hanging. The writers are very fandom-savvy, and at least half of the Ho Yay in the show was intentional.
- Korra and Asami in The Legend of Korra start to develop this from Season 3 onward (after they resolve the Romantic Plot Tumor with Mako), becoming more warm towards and supportive of each other than anyone else in the Krew, frequently working almost in synch, having many emotional intimate moments, and the final scene of the show is them going into the Republic City Spirit Portal on a vacation together, holding hands with a Held Gaze, in a scene that mirrors the end scene of the "Legend of Aang" where Aang and Katara have their Big Damn Kiss, both visually and musically. Word of God confirms that this was completely intentional, that "Korrasami is canon", and that this was a way to get around Nickelodeon's S & P.
- The Simpsons:
- Lenny and Carl. There have been a few jokes about this, of course.
Lenny: [seeing Homer and Marge kissing] Remember when we used to kiss like that... with our respective girlfriends?
Wiggum: Lou, you can't leave the force! I can change!
Lou: I just think there's more money in private security.
Wiggum: What I'm hearing is I'm too fat! [Eats a sundae between sobs]
- One episode brought Chief Wiggum and Homer together. There was a falling out between them when Wiggum became too needy but they kind of make up by the end.
- While Smithers would obviously prefer his relationship with Mr. Burns to be something different, the show often offered such jokes about their relationship earlier on.
- One episode had Apu and Snake seeing a therapist, acting like a married couple:
Apu: He used to rob me 2-3 times a week. Now, I'm lucky if I get it once a month.
Snake: He never initiates it. I have to do all the work. He just stands there...
Therapist: Now, now, don't talk through him. Talk to him.
Snake: (sighs) Apu, sometimes when I rob you, it's like you're not even there.
Apu: That is because you are robbing my brother Sanjay!
Snake: Dude, I didn't know...
Apu: Oh, just shut up!
- South Park has many jokes concerning Stan and Kyle's deep friendship. And even when it's not part of a joke, a lot of their deeper moments simply reek of Ho Yay.
- Phineas and Ferb:
- Buford and Baljeet, up to having an episode about them titled "Bully Bromance Breakup", complete with breakup song.
- Doofenshmirtz and Perry the Platypus constantly have their Friendly Enemy status played like a dysfunctional couple, the epitome of which was Doof having an "affair" with another secret agent, Peter the Panda. One episode had Peter's nemesis try and get revenge on Dr. D. for the incident, acting like a jealous boyfriend. Doof even gives him relationship advice.
- Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy from Batman: The Animated Series. In the episode where their partnership was formed, they walk around Ivy's secluded trailer in nothing but dress shirts and underwear and constantly talk about how men are worthless, and in later episodes they share an apartment and continue to walk around in rather skimpy clothing (when Harley is not with the Joker). A later episode has the (scantily-clad) Ivy pushing the (scantily-clad) Harley down onto their hotel room's (single) bed with a pillow, at which point the scene abruptly ends. Word of God is that Harley & Ivy are indeed in such a relationship, off and on.
- Adventure Time:
- Lemongrab and his clone, Lemongrab 2. They live together, have babies together, nuzzle when naked, and even hug when naked. They act like a married couple, and Princess Bubblegum said she had created Lemongrab 2 for Lemongrab "to be with," in a rather suggestive voice. And then in "Too Old" Lemongrab eats Lemongrab 2.
- Bubblegum and Marceline have all the signs of ex-girlfriends who had a nasty break-up but still want to get back together, starting in "What Was Missing" and expanded on in "Sky Witch", the comics, and Marceline and the Scream Queens. Word of God is that they did use to date, but the threat of Moral Guardians means this will likely never be acknowledged in the show.
- Time Squad lived and breathed this trope, with Larry and Buck firmly established as Otto's parents, though it pretty much became more "text" and less "subtext" around season two.
- The shorts featuring Ace and Gary (aka "The Ambiguously Gay Duo") from Saturday Night Live were riddled with this, and lampshaded constantly by everyone who saw them in action.